Archive for the ‘representation’ Category

121029 – Function and Teleology

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Tyler Burge talks about representational function as if it is something that the human perceptual system has.  He says that a representational function succeeds if it represents veridically.  But that really doesn’t properly characterize the human perceptual system.  I end up feeling that the analysis is running the wrong way.

What we are concerned about is not what the perceptual system is supposed to do, that is, what we conclude that it should do (although that may be an interesting thing to speculate on), but rather we should ask what the perceptual system actually does and how it does it.  This is the difference between positing an algorithm or a set of requirements and then trying to find evidence for them on the one hand, and on the other, trying to understand what actually happens.

Failure to represent veridically is perhaps causally related to behavior that is suboptimal from the standpoint of an observer with access to the veridical facts, but an organism behaves based on what it has available, not what it would be nicer to have available.  It is already granted that proximal inputs underspecify distal reality.  The point is to make the most of what one gets.


Saturday, July 7th, 2012


Can there be representation without representation as?  Perception without perception as?  Can there be perception without concepts?

What is going on when we see an artichoke and can’t remember what it is called?  How does the word ‘artichoke’ fit in with the perception of an artichoke as an ARTICHOKE?  Take carrots (please): if I know English and Spanish and I see a carrot, must I see it as either a CARROT or a ZANAHORIA if I am to see it at all?  (No seeing without concepts.)  What does it mean to say I see a carrot as such?  Is that just a transparent attempt to beg the question of which concept I see it as?  If a cat sees a carrot, it must see a carrot as something.  A CARROTCAT ? It can’t be a CARROT or a ZANAHORIA, although is is surely a carrot.  There in Thailand I had for breakfast exotic fruits whose names I never knew, but which I recognized in terms at least of which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t care for.  So at first I saw them as BREAKFAST FRUITS OF UNKNOWN DESIRABILITY.  I’m willing to grant that as a concept.

What if I’m driving, listening to the radio, and thinking about buying an iPad.  I see and react to all sorts of driving related things: cars, traffic signals, etc., but a lot of the things I see don’t appear to make an appearance in consciousness.  Do I have to say I saw them?  How do I distinguish terminologically between things that made it to (How shall I say?) first class consciousness and thing that were handled by second class consciousness? If I can’t say that I saw them, what must I say to indicate that at some level I took them into consideration because I stayed on the road in my lane and didn’t crash into anything?